This video shows why motorcycles are the answer to rural mobility. The 11 minute video is of a road that was washed out by storms, apparently in Japan. Much of it is overgrown and vanishing and the motorcyclist has to dodge quite a few downed limbs. – InyoKern
I would like to thank Jeff H. for writing this article on the use of a motorcycle as a BOV as I was planning on doing the same in the near future. He touched on quite a few very good topics. But, from his submission, you can tell that he is a more experienced motorcyclist. I would like to share my thoughts from a beginner/novice point of view. The one difference of opinion that I have is concerning the bike’s size. I definitely agree with the suggestion of getting a Dual Sport/Dual Purpose/Adventure Touring bike that is a 650 cc or larger when you need it to be your pack mule, or want to do cross country highway trips. But, I don’t want the smaller Dual Sport bikes to be overlooked for a variety of reasons. I just purchased a small Dual Sport bike a few months ago with the mindset of using it as a possible BOV, as well as a daily commuter. The following takes you through the reasoning I took in purchasing a small Dual Sport Bike:
First and foremost, I have never ridden/owned a bike for the street (a dirt bike here and there), so I did not want to invest too much money on something that I may not like. For a larger bike, you will be paying more money up front. The bike I purchased is a 2009 Yamaha XT250. This bike sells new for about $4,500 (other bikes in this range can be had for under $4,000). A new 650 starts around $6,000, and a can go up past $10,000 for the larger displacement bikes. Add the insurance difference on top of that (especially if you are a young male like myself), the riding gear, and that makes for a fairly large investment for something you may not like. Other than the initial purchase, you will be feeding this thing money in the forms of fuel and maintenance. The XT250 only has about a 2.5 Gal fuel tank, but I have gotten between 70-75 MPG (roughly a 150+ Mile Range). Each bike is different, but the average “High” MPG from the larger bikes I have seen is between 40-65 MPG. The maintenance on a single cylinder, air cooled engine is not going to be as time/money consuming as a liquid cooled larger engine (there are some air cooled units though).
A small bike is generally a light bike. The XT250’s weight is somewhere in the 250-290 lbs, while a Kawasaki KLR650 is in the 430 lb range, and they just go up from there. It may not seem like a lot, but if you are truly in a G.O.O.D. situation and your bike gets stuck in the mud or tips over, what would you rather struggle with? Seat height is another consideration. Most Dual Sport bikes are “dirt bikes with lights”, so they can be awkward for some people (especially those who are inexperienced or vertically challenged). I am about 6’ with a 32” inseam, and when stopped at a light, I can get both feet flat on the ground comfortably. When shopping for a bike, I sat on a variety of different Dual Sport bikes, and the larger bikes (like the Kawasaki 650) I felt quite uncomfortable while stopped (I either had to have the bike tipped to the side, or be on my toes) as I could only get one foot on the ground. This in addition to the 400+ pound curb weight didn’t make me feel too comfortable. This may be a non-issue for an experienced rider, but as a novice, I felt like I was going to tip over and I didn’t even have any riding gear on, no backpack, no extra luggage, etc. If this bike is still too tall for some of you; the Honda CRF230M is a strong candidate, and a much smaller bike (I felt, and looked, like I was riding a kids bike).
It doesn’t get much more simple than a single cylinder, air cooled, carbureted, dirt bike. The only electronics the XT250 has are the lights/signals, speedometer, electronic ignition, and the handlebar controls. The only thing that is absolutely needed out of those is the ignition control box. Most larger bikes have fuel injection at a minimum, and quite a few newer ones have ABS, Traction Control, Fuel Injection, etc. Also, as far as fluids go, most small displacement, single cylinder, air cooled bikes only have the engine oil and brake fluid. If the bike is liquid cooled, then you have coolant on top of that (as well as everything that is needed for the liquid cooling: Radiator, Coolant, Water Pump, Thermostat, Hoses/Lines, Complex Cylinder Head, etc.). Fuel injection is nice, but adds another computer, a bunch of sensors, fuel injectors, etc. Carburetors have their own problems, but it is possible to MacGyver them in the field if need be.
I know that I just touched on a few choice areas concerning a smaller displacement bike; the main goal of this writing is to keep your options open. There is a good reason that the XT250 and XT225 (the XT250’s Predecessor) are used worldwide as transportation. These bikes are hugely popular in Europe and Asia. They are not without their faults, but a very good alternative if the thought of a larger bike isn’t too appealing in your situation. These bikes aren’t made for cross country highway cruising, but they can handle occasional highway use; the winds really push you around though (since the bike is under 300#). Being carbureted there is a short warm-up period vs. fuel injected which is ready to go right away. Please do your research about what bike is best for you; there are a lot of good forums out there about these bikes with first hand experience. Reading about the extreme reliability and durability of the XT250 was the deciding factor (some people have logged more than 30,000 miles on a 2008!). I am very pleased with this bike and will recommend it to anyone who is on the fence, but you just need to learn the limitations of whatever you choose. This bike is very forgiving and not overly intimidating for the first time rider, but it is also a blast for the more experienced rider – “It’s more fun to ride a slow bike fast than a fast bike slow”! And, for the sake of safety, whichever bike you choose, make sure that you use All The Gear All The Time.
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Regards, – O.V.